Rolling- I'm getting close to 60, and as much as I hate to admit it I’m not as flexible or as strong as I used to be. While I can roll a whitewater kayak with excellent consistency, some of the bigger boats aren't following my orders they way they used to.
I took the Strike to one of our local pool rolling sessions to try it out. To be blunt, I couldn't roll it. The chine is just too much of a hurdle for me to get round. I gave the boat to a couple of extremely athletic 20-somethings to see what they could do with it, and the results were mixed. George, who is skinny and about six-four, could not roll it. However, his buddy, Rush, who is about five-nine and 155 lbs, was able to roll it. I'm about five-eleven and 185.
The bottom line-- some excellent paddlers might be able to roll this boat, but it's not easy. Smaller paddlers might have an easier time of it, but I don't really have a big enough data set to support that conclusion.
Attachments-- The buckles on the manufacturer-supplied thigh straps dig into my shins. The brass clips on the back brace and thigh straps clog up easily with sand and grit. Spray them with WD-40 before and after paddling. I don't recommend heavier lube, as that tends to attract more grit. The WD-40 has more of a tendency to penetrate into the nooks and crannies and flush stuff out.
I agree with the person who said that the fittings seem to leak a lot.
I got the storage hatch in the rear of the boat, just in case I had to loan out all my other boats for a flatwater paddle. It has a nifty lock/closure system, but it needs to be sprayed with silicon lube on a regular basis, or the stress on the handle during opening might be too much for it to handle.
The skegs do great things for the boat, but in a lot of conditions I prefer to leave them off, especially if the waves are small and I have to shimmy through shallow water to get out into the waves.
Note that this boat LOVES to come back into shore. Of there's even the tiniest bit of bite in the little dregs of a wave rolling in towards shore, this boat will ride it. Yes, there are better performing surf kayaks out there for tricks (all of them glass/epoxy), but the Strike can surf the grodiest little wavelet you can catch.
I took this boat out to the Feeder Canal, which is where the US Olympic Team used to have its training facility. It's class II-III at the top and class I at the bottom (it was built to feed water into the lower reaches of the C&O Canal, which is where it got its name). It got a lot of attention from the other paddlers there, who had never seen one before.
The first thing I noticed about the Strike is that it handled almost identically to a whitewater kayak in class I water. I just got in and paddled, same response to currents and eddies. However, one thing whitewater paddlers need to know is that this is NOT a dry boat! With my 180-lb weight, I was sitting in two inches of water through the scuppers right off the bat. Of course, since I was in whitewater, I did not use the skeg.
The one huge difference in performance between the Strike and enclosed whitewater boats is in the upstream edge. If you get the upstream edge of the Strike caught in the flow, you are in for some SERIOUS effect. As an experienced river surfer I had the chops to deal with it as soon as I felt it, but later when I was pushing the envelope I did suffer some consequences (more on that below). Suffice it to say that, while it is very similar to a whitewater boat in most ways, if a beginner or an intermediate whitewater paddler catches an upstream edge in this thing, they are going over, and that's that.
On the ocean, of course, that's not as big of a concern, because the waves are more spread and the surf-able part of the wave is steeper, so very little chance of that happening.
I had the boat outfitted with backbrace, thigh straps, and foot straps. My heels were getting a bit cramped, so I took my feet out of the straps. I found myself at the head of the line for surfing the little hole at the top of the chute, and headed in for what I thought would be an easy paddle. However, I pushed things a bit too far during a cut-back and went upside down. Instead of rolling I just came out, mainly because my feet weren't in the straps. However, when I surfaced, I found it amazingly easy to perform a self-rescue and climb back in the boat. I just flipped it upright, reached across from side to side, and pulled myself up. For a boat this small, I did not expect such lateral stability. In a few seconds, I was back up at the top of the Feeder surfing again.
I can't wait to try it in the ocean, but I also can't wait to try it at several other Potomac River playspots...